Friday, 28 January 2011
No official campaign
So it’s now official. There will be no officially-designated lead campaigns for more powers for the Welsh assembly, according to the Electoral Commission.
With True Wales not applying for an official status and there being no other creditable application on the ‘no’ side, there cannot be an officially recognised referendum campaign.
Why you ask? Well, because the law says you’ve got to have two sides designated or none at all.
With only the ‘yes’ side seeking offical approval, there is no contest. Well no contest that has official blessing at least.
But worry not, for there are comforting words from Kay Jenkins, the Electoral Commission’s Welsh boss. She says that people will recieve an information booklet on the referendum shortly.
And more, much more than this, she says.
"A number of campaigners - including political parties, individuals and trade unions - have also already started their campaigns."
She goes on to say, "So there should be plenty of opportunities for voters to hear the arguments of both sides in the media, in campaign materials and online."
Of course, if she’s right, it begs the question why shell out public money on official campaigns when in her opinion the voters are going to be informed by the competing sides.
But is this true? It would take a brave person to wager that all those entitled to vote will know the why and wherefore of the referendum.
A significant number of people in Wales get most of their information from a news media that has an English only agenda. This referendum has a snowball’s chance in hell of being featuring by these news outlets.
But would a handout by the state make any difference. Would the Commission’s money make any difference? It is doubtful.
Not the way the rules are framed. To pay for back office functions but not for campaigning material is a nonsense.
A free mail shot reaching every household is only an advantage if you can afford to produce the material.Likewise to get people to sit up and notice in a free broadcast does not come cheap.
Clearly, parliament has laid down some crazy rules for the Electoral Commission to follow. Indeed they never envisaged a referendum that was backed by most if not all the main political parties.
Surely Parliament needs to look again at the issues raised by this referendum. A major overhaul is needed.